CAA 2012

CAA 2012 - Joined-Up Data
John Pybus speaks to the assembled CAA delegates about EngLaId.

Last week, two members of the EngLaId team attended 2012’s international Computer Applications and Quantitative Methods in Archaeology (CAA) at the University of Southampton.

John Pybus spoke in the session Joined-Up Data: what are the new research questions?  His paper discussed some of the ways in which our project is hoping to use semantic web technologies to help us answer our research questions.

Chris Green spoke in the session Large databases and datasets about the proposed methodology by which we are attempting to bring together our multiple and very varied datasets within a single analytical GIS environment (see previous blog post for some of the detail).  Chris will be presenting a longer version of this paper at the IfA conference in Oxford on 18 April, in the session Where’s IT all going 2?

Useful comment on both papers was gratefully received.  The Proceedings should be published in early 2013.  Next year’s CAA is in Perth, Australia, again at the end of March: Chris is certainly hoping to attend.

HER Forum 7 December 2011

On 7 December 2011, Chris Gosden gave a talk to about 70 local authority Historic Environment Record (HER) officers from all over England about the EngLaId project to delegates of the HER Forum Winter Meeting, held in the Birmingham and Midland Institute in Birmingham. The aim was to present the project to HER officers and obtain feedback from the audience. It was emphasised that the EngLaId project hopes to establish a two-way conversation about the possibilities and advantages of collaboration between the EngLaId project and HERs. The EngLaId project depends to a significant degree on data held by HERs, but, where possible, aims to use these data in such a way that HERs will enjoy maximum benefit from the information exchange, for example through feeding into HER Research Frameworks.

Chris first outlined the project’s main objectives. Highlighting the enormous potential brought by the increase in archaeological data since the 1990s, he stressed the importance of long-term and countrywide syntheses that ignore traditional period and regional boundaries. Such an ambitious approach is perhaps only possible in an English context, because the high standards with which data are recorded and made available for research in England – not only through HERs, but also through EH’s National Mapping Programme (NMP) and other data repositories such as the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS), the Celtic Coin Index and the Early Medieval Corpus (EMC) of single coin finds – are unrivalled internationally.

Chris then explained that the project will take place on two scales. First, the project will analyse patterns on a national scale – based mainly on NMP, HER and PAS data – with the aim to identify broad patterns in land use and metalwork deposition. Second, the project’s researchers will focus on a number of case studies, initially selected on basis of NMP coverage in combination with other investigation types, although the boundaries of case study areas can be altered if HER officers feel that that will be more beneficial.

Suggested case study areas.

The output of the project, in addition to traditional scholarly publications including a monograph, will be a website that, through application of new technology derived from the Semantic Web, will provide a search function that links to existing on-line data repositories. It was stressed that it is NOT the aim of the EngLaId project to create a new data hub. The project will approach HERs for data, but only to be used for research and analysis. The eventual website will merely provide a search function to existing repositories where data are kept under their existing conditions of release. This approach also ensures that the EngLaId website will not become out-dated, and that HER data will be accessed and appreciated more widely.

After Chris’s presentation, there was sufficient time for discussion and debate.  Reactions from the floor were overwhelmingly positive, with several suggestions for slight improvements to case study area boundaries and specific possibilities for collaboration. In conclusion, Chris reiterated that his presentation to the HER forum was an invitation to establish a two-way conversation about the possibilities and advantages of collaboration. In this context, we welcome any further ideas and discussion regarding the EngLaId project, either through this blog or directly by email to the Project Administrator, Laura Morley (laura.morley@arch.ox.ac.uk).

MSRG Winter Seminar, 3 December 2011

On 3 December, the English Landscape and Identities project presented a poster at the 2011 Winter Seminar of the Medieval Settlement Research Group, held at Newcastle University. The seminar was entitled ‘Heartland to Frontier: The Tees-Forth Region in the Middle Ages’, incorporating a number of papers that presented new evidence from excavated settlements and finds in this north-eastern region. As two of the case studies that the EngLaId project will carry out are also situated in this general area, it was extremely useful to attend the Winter Seminar. The project poster was well received and generated some useful comments from MSRG members.

The MSRG Winter Seminar was coupled with the MSRG AGM, during which one of the EngLaId project members, Letty ten Harkel, was elected as committee member for the MSRG, laying the basis for continuing contact and co-operation between the English Landscape and Identities project and the MSRG which, we hope, will be mutually beneficial.